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Saturday, January 31, 2009

wolo on parnaby

From an article in the Star

Radio silence for Parnaby
'Tattered little datebook' closed as CFRB railroads consummate newsman right into retirement


Last Updated: 31st January 2009, 4:25am

Several years ago, on my 50th birthday, I received a gift I'll never forget. During the "Tattered Little Datebook" segment on his 11:50 CFRB Newscast, Tayler Parnaby paid tribute to me.

That daily newscast was appointment radio for me, and although I was still on the air at the time, I got goose bumps listening to this legendary newscaster weave his words oh so eloquently and graciously. I was blown away.

After 54 years of "being part of Toronto's soundtrack," Tayler Parnaby has left the booth.

"I retired," said the man affectionately referred to as "Hap." But when asked if the retirement was of his own making, he replied, "No, it was clearly part of an economic decision made by Astral Radio."

Parnaby should have left showered in praise, instead Dave Trafford made the announcement on Hap's newscast, and he was gone; as was the 11:50 newscast first introduced by Gordon Sinclair.

As Parnaby wrote in his local Caledon Enterprise newspaper column, "The iconic Gordon Sinclair newscast was terminated."

Old Sinc must be spinning, and cursing in his grave.

Through his years at CKEY, CKO, CHUM and CFRB, Parnaby mentored dozens of broadcasters ,including David Onley, who went on to CITY and is now this province's lieutenant governor.

He reported from New York on Sept. 11, the tsunami in South Asia, Columbine following the vicious high school shooting spree, O.J. Simpson's trial, dozens of throne speeches and numerous elections.

"My first political speech involved Lester Pearson, before he was P.M. I remember the stations only tape recorder was broken so I carried a record cutting machine with me. The damn thing must have weighed 50, 60 pounds," Parnaby said with a laugh.

For many of us who worked along side him, he was our go to guy. At Pierre Trudeau's funeral, his knowledge of political history and his Ottawa connections were invaluable, and if you ever had a constitutional question, inevitably someone would yell out, "Call Hap."

Hap was actually Parnaby's uncle's name, but it's what everyone called him since birth; everyone except a radio general manager early in his career.

"I had just finished reading a news story about a plane crash in Venezuela that claimed 29 lives. My boss said, 'You just announced 29 people had been killed in an airplane moments after being introduced as Hap Parnaby. You can't kill 29 people and be happy.' He asked me my given names, which are Walter and Tayler, and I hated Walter so I took Tayler."

Since the day he first stepped in front of a microphone in September 1963 until his final broadcast two weeks ago, Parnaby was the embodiment of the consummate newsman; curious, relentless, and factual.

His work garnered him a Radio Television News Directors Presidents' Award for Lifetime Achievement. It is the highest award given by the RTNDA in Canada whose past recipients include Lloyd Robertson, Pamela Wallin and Knowlton Nash.

He was also named a Paul Harris Fellow, the highest award given by Rotary. He has gained the respect of his Queen's Park colleagues, and politicians who will fete him next month.

When I asked if there were regrets, he calmly replied, "None." A moment later he laughed and added, "Yeah, the career should have gone 154 years."

But Parnaby does have concerns about the industry he leaves behind.

"I am disturbed over the decline and fall of radio journalism across Canada, there are but a few exceptions," he said. "Politics has become less important, replaced by lifestyle news which may be relevant but not at the expense of hard news.


"When the city issues an extreme cold warning it shouldn't be the lead story in every newscast, but it is, because it's an easy story to write."

For now Parnaby will settle back into a quieter lifestyle with his lovely wife, Linda, excusing himself to write his column or work on his fascinating model train collection. There will be summer jaunts down east to visit his children and grandchildren, some public speaking events and, if they're smart, a call or two from news people seeking his wisdom.

It has been an honour working with him and calling him my friend. Thank you for your time Hap.